Skip to comments.When Real Judicial Conservatives Attack [Dover ID opinion]
Posted on 01/09/2006 8:26:54 AM PST by PatrickHenry
If theres anything to be learned from the intelligent design debate, its that branding activist judges is the hobby of bitter losers.
For those who care about the fight over evolution in biology classrooms, Christmas came five days early when the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District ruling was handed down. In his decision, Judge John E. Jones III ruled that not only is the theory of intelligent design religion poorly dressed in science language, teaching it in class is an outright violation of the First Amendment.
The ruling was a concise and devastating demonstration of how law, precedent and evidence can come together to drive complete nonsense out of the courtroom. But if the aftermath of the event proves anything, it proves that nine times out of 10, if someone accuses a judge of being an activist, it is because he disagrees with the ruling and wants to make it clear to like-minded followers that they only lost because the liberals are keeping them down. Gratuitous overuse has, in just a few short years, turned the phrase judicial activism from a description of an actual problem in the legal system into a catch-all keyword for any ruling that social conservatives dislike.
During the months between the initial suit and the final decision, a high-powered law firm from Chicago volunteered some of its best to represent the plaintiffs pro bono, defenders of evolution and intelligent design mobilized, and few people really cared other than court watchers, biology nerds and a suspicious number of creationist groups. The trial went well for the plaintiffs: Their witnesses and evidence were presented expertly and professionally, and it never hurts when at least two of the witnesses for the defense are caught perjuring themselves in their depositions. Advocates for teaching actual science in school science classes were fairly confident that Jones was going to rule in their favor.
When it came, the ruling was significant enough to earn a slightly wider audience than the aforementioned court watchers, biology nerds and creationists. What drew interest from newcomers was not the minutiae of the trial, but the scope of Jones ruling and the scorn for the Dover School Boards actions that practically radiated off the pages. He ruled both that intelligent design was a religious idea, and that teaching it in a science class was an unconstitutional establishment of religion by the state. He didnt stop there, however.
It is ironic, he wrote, that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the intelligent design policy.
Such harsh language might provoke some sympathy for intelligent design advocates, if they hadnt immediately demonstrated how much they deserved it by responding not with scientific arguments for intelligent design or legal precedent to contradict Jones ruling but with ridiculous name-calling. The Discovery Institute, the leading center of ID advocacy, referred to Jones as an activist judge with delusions of grandeur. Bill OReilly also brought out the A word on his show. Richard Land, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and noted drama queen, declared him the poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror. The American Family Association, having apparently read a different ruling than the rest of America, insisted that judges were so eager to keep God out of schools that they would throw out even scientific evidence for Him. Funny how so many creationist groups seemed to have missed the memo that intelligent design isnt supposed to be about God at all.
It was depressingly predictable that the intelligent design crowd would saturate the Internet with cries of judicial activism regardless of the actual legal soundness of the ruling. In only a few years, intellectually lazy political leaders have morphed an honest problem in the judiciary that deserves serious debate into shorthand for social conservatisms flavor of the week. The phrase has been spread around so much and applied to so many people that it only has meaning within the context of someones rant. It is the politico-speak equivalent of dude.
Only when one learns that Jones was appointed by George W. Bush and had conservative backers that included the likes of Tom Ridge and Rick Santorum can one appreciate how indiscriminately the term is thrown around. Jones is demonstrably a judicial conservative. In fact, hes the kind of strict constructionist that social conservatives claim to want on the bench. Their mistake is in assuming that the law and their ideology must necessarily be the same thing.
In the end, no one could defend Jones better than he did himself. He saw the breathless accusations of judicial activism coming a mile away, and refuted them within the text of the ruling. In his conclusion he wrote:
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on intelligent design, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Boards decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop, which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
Jones knew his name would be dragged through the mud and issued the correct ruling anyway. One can only hope that the utter childishness of the intelligent design response will alienate even more sensible people, and that the phrase judicial activism will from now on be used only by those who know what theyre talking about. No bets on the latter.
Ignoring the clear language and intent of the drafters of the constitution, including the First Amendment is not 'pure conservatism'.
And humans are still apes.
I forgo many such opportunities.
"The entire exercise has been about teaching religion in science class, no one has complained about teaching Christianity in comparative religion classes."
"History is a major component of virtually every biology coursebook I have ever examined. How one teaches 'intelligent design' as anything other than 'this is another explanation' I don't understand. It has a place in at least the historical context and should have equal footing with the descriptions of medieval beliefs that snails turned into swans or whatever it was (been a few years since I took biology.)
I agree, however that is not how it was being presented. It was being presented as an alternative science to evolution with the hidden intent of supplanting evolution. It is not a science yet, and I doubt it will every become a science in the biological context, so has no place being taught as science. Taught as you suggested? Sure.
"In the context of the Dover trial - the school board operated like morons. In the context of the history of biology, creationism has a place. Do I think it should go so far as to say that every mutation has the hand of God? No, I don't. Can it go so far as to say that some believe that the diversity of the biosphere leads some to see the hand of God? Absolutely.
It appears I have misunderstood your original post; my apologies.
Get back to me when one of those lizards gives birth to a polar bear.
Look in the mirror. Do you see a human or an ape?
If that is the case, let's see an experiment cross breeding an ape with a human.
Both. I also see a mammal, a primate, a eutherian, a vertebrate, a tetrapod, and eukaryote.
When you look at a tiger, do you see a tiger or a cat?
It's not either/or. You're talking about two different levels of classification.
Readers should also note that those Christians that were also scientists carefully kept their religion out of their science, at least regarding those discoveries.
The problem is not the religious beliefs of the scientist but the inclusion of religion in scientific conclusions.
"The OT deals with the laws but you probably already know that. Skip to the NT for grace."
That's very good advice. But the OT is a part of the Bible. How do you reconcile the fact that, out of all the world religions, only Islam comes close to enforcing such archaic laws as "Kill your disobedient teenage son"... or that women should be "unclean for 7 days" after giving birth to a son...and unclean for 14 days for giving birth to a daughter (Leviticus 12:1-5)? Why doesn't Christianity and Judaism still take these 'laws' literally? If they aren't to be taken literally, why should Creation?
Seriously, since no Christians or Jews (outside of a few whack jobs) take these laws seriously, how can a person take the rest of it seriously? You can't say "Well, Creation story is 100% true...but ignore those pesky, weird laws about death to non-Sabbath observers."
Keeping religion out of public schools IS the "clear language and intent of teh drafters of the Constitution".
They're not taught those things in the science class and they're not taught those things are true. If they are mentioned, they are mentioned as a matter of cultural ed.
Sorry, but it is not the prerogative of any judge to aid in the establishment of atheistic principles. Weaselly disclaimers notwithstanding, those who do so should be considered "activist" judges, because the people of the United States have not given government the authority to establish and maintain only atheistic principles. By law judges are obligated to protect the free exercise of religion in public and in private. Science is not entitled to have its biases protected by law. If it wants wholly atheistic science to be taught, then it is free to establish its own private school system where atheistic principles are established and maintained.
You go first.
Evolution occurs. It can be considered a fact, variation and natural selection is observed. The Theory of Evolution is a theory explaining the observations. It, as its name suggests, is a theory.
"The first cell came from simple chemicals, combining in random reactions.
The first cell did not come from random chemical reactions. The first pre-life, or proto-life was not a cell. Chemical reactions are not random but follow observed physical rules. Apply energy and they (atoms/molecules) will combine.
"But why can't anyone duplicate these chemical reactions in a lab?
Because we do not know which chemicals, of what quantities, in what sequence, in which environment, the first pre-life developed. It took the environment a minimum of 500 million years to accomplish what you feel we should accomplish in 50 years.
"Silence. Evolution is a fact. Not a theory.
Evolution is a fact and the ToE is a theory.
Aaaaannnnnd what were you hoping to see?
I don't take OT laws seriously any more but I'm sure I would have if I would have lived in those times. I also don't take prohibition laws seriously but I would have in the 20s.
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